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Small establishments employ the largest share of workers

February 11, 1999

In March 1997, small establishments—those with less than 100 workers—employed 55.3 percent of the total U.S. private sector employment of 100.0 million. Medium establishments (100 to 999 workers) employed 33.1 percent of all private workers, and large establishments (1,000 or more) accounted for 11.7 percent.

Employment share by size of establishment, March 1997
[Chart data—TXT]

Four of the nine major industry divisions reported substantially greater employment shares in small establishments than the average. Small establishments accounted for about 80.5 percent of employment in construction, 74.8 percent in wholesale trade, 73.3 in agriculture, and 71.2 percent in retail trade.

Two industry divisions—finance, insurance, and real estate and services—had small establishment employment shares about the same as the average.

The manufacturing division had by far the lowest employment share in small establishments at 30.4 percent, and the highest shares in both medium establishments (49.0 percent) and large establishments (20.5 percent). Transportation and public utilities also reported comparatively high shares of employment in medium and large establishments.

These employment data by size of establishment are produced by the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (ES-202) program, a virtual census of establishments, employment, and wages of employees on nonfarm payrolls. Additional information may be obtained from the bulletin, "Employment and Wages Annual Averages, 1997." An "establishment" is defined as an economic unit which produces goods or provides services, typically at a single physical location and engaged in one type of economic activity. For this article, small establishments are defined as those that employ less than 100 workers; medium establishments as those that employ between 100 and 999 workers; and large establishments as those that employ 1,000 workers or more. Due to rounding, the overall and some industry division employment shares by establishment size do not sum to 100 percent.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Small establishments employ the largest share of workers at (visited May 21, 2024).

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